April 18, 2009

F1 Quals: China 2009!

This year, it's hard to say anything is a surprise.  However, the grid for the Grand Prix of China... this might be a surprise.  Let's take a look:

Pos Driver Team Q1Q2Q3
1 Sebastian Vettel RBR-Renault 1:36.565 1:35.130 1:36.184
2 HWMNBN Renault 1:36.443 1:35.803 1:36.381
3 Mark Webber RBR-Renault 1:35.751 1:35.173 1:36.466
4 Rubens Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 1:35.701 1:35.503 1:36.493
5 Jenson Button Brawn-Mercedes 1:35.533 1:35.556 1:36.532
6 Jarno Trulli Toyota 1:36.308 1:35.645 1:36.835
7 Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:35.941 1:35.809 1:37.397
8 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:36.137 1:35.856 1:38.089
9 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:35.776 1:35.740 1:38.595
10 Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari 1:36.284 1:35.965 1:39.321
11 Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:36.525 1:35.975
12 Heikki Kovalaninnie McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.646 1:36.032
13 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:36.178 1:36.033
14 Timo Glockenspiel Toyota 1:36.364 1:36.066
15 Kazoo Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:36.673 1:36.193
16 SeaBass STR-Ferrari 1:36.906

17 Nelson Piquet Jr
Renault 1:36.908

18 Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1:36.966

19 Adrian Sutil Farce India-Mercedes 1:37.669

20 Giancarlo Fisichella Farce India-Mercedes 1:37.672

Yes, the Brawn Supremacy has been broken... just not by one of the "Big Three."  Nope, Red Bull and Renault both stepped up today and shoved their way to the top of the grid.  To be honest, seeing Red Bull up there isn't really a shock.  It's been clear all season that the RB5 is probably the best car out there that doesn't have the trick diffuser.  Despite that lack, Vettel was in line for a podium in Australia... before that little coming-together with a BMW.

The Adrian Newey-designed chassis should be good: he's probably the best aerodynamicist in F1 history (even if he still uses a drafting table instead of a computer, an attitude I heartily endorse).  The question is whether the RB5 will ever have the trick diffuser at all... the chassis' rear was designed so tightly that installing a new diffuser is requiring a complete redesign of the rear.  With the testing ban, it might be difficult to get it on the track without crippling the team for multiple races.  But I digress.

The huge surprise for the day has to be HWMNBN in the Renault.  Where the heck did that come from?  The car hasn't shown that sort of speed, and they took the KERS system off to boot.  Hmmm... could there be a connection there?  Ferrari, plagued by reliability problems with their version of the KERS, has also removed it from their racers.  In fact, the only KERS cars this race will be the McLarens and BMWs (both of them this time).

As predicted, we've finally seen a McLaren in Q3.  Sure, it's only 9th, but it's a step in the right direction.  It's thought that the two McLarens are running different versions of their new diffuser, which isn't a bad idea.  Since there's no testing allowed, that's the only way to figure out what's what.  Unsurprisingly, Hamilton appears to have gotten the good one, though that might be a reflection of the difference of skill between Lewis and Heikki.

Felipe Massa has got to be mumbling to himself by now.

Unsurprisingly, with the release of running weights for the cars, it's found that the cars in the top three positions are light on fuel.  HWMNBN's car weighs 637kg, Vettel 644kg, Webber 646.5kg.  By comparison, the Brawns are at 661kg for Barrichello and 659kg for Button.  So perhaps it isn't a surprise at all that HWMNBN got up to 2nd: he probably has enough fuel on board to go maybe 15 laps before he needs to pit.  I'd expect to see the Brawns in around lap 20-22 or so, by comparison.  Maybe Renault is gambling on rain?

In other news, Timo Glockenspiel had to change his gearbox after Saturday's practice... it appears that his Toyota tried to select two gears at once, which is a very bad thing for a gearbox to do.  He'll take a five-gridspot penalty.

The race looks to be falling into the laps of the Brawns, but one never knows... that's why they run the race, which occurs on Sunday morning.  See ya here for the F1U!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:53 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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KERS is an interesting idea in principle, but it's not yet obvious whether it makes sense in practice. Like everything it's a tradeoff. Is carrying the extra weight all the way through the race worth the ability to get an extra boost once in a while (e.g. during passing)? We don't have the final answer yet, of course, but it's looking like the answer is "no".

I'd be ready to call this "Bizarro season" except that Force India is still at the bottom. So the established order hasn't been totally rototilled. There are still things we can rely on.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at April 18, 2009 06:30 PM (+rSRq)

2 KERS doesn't really have enough of a benefit yet.  It's finicky, and the boost the car gets works out to be about the same as you'd get if you took it off the car completely (weight-related).  When it rains, it actually hurts the car.

It's a good idea, but right now it has to be called a failure.  Of course, we're not even three races into the season, so a lot has yet to be revealed.  A part of me likes the idea of KERS, but another, much larger, part would rather see V10 engines back... or the original version of "push-to-pass", instead of KERS.

Actually, I'd much rather have V12s, but that'll never happen.

Posted by: Wonderduck at April 18, 2009 07:33 PM (2+BgR)

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